words // Zack Schlemmer
The Nike Air Max 360 Basketball was a shoe almost twenty years in the making. Eighteen years after Nike first introduced a visible Air unit on a basketball shoe with the Air Revolution came the first basketball shoe with a full 360 degree visible Air sole. With major steps along the way in bigger and better Air units like the Air Force 180, Air Force Max, and Air Max Uptempo, 2006's Air Max 360 was the first to offer nothing but Air under your feet. The problem had been finding a way to encapsulate the Air bag without using foam in the midsole.
With the advent of the Nike Air Max 360 Air Sole, it was finally possible to create a shoe without foam, thus letting a player ball entirely on air. Utilizing thermoforming technology (versus blow-molding), Nike engineers created a smoother surface at the top of the Air Sole unit to attach it more securely to the upper. While foam has the benefit of an added cushioning tool, foam also compresses over time. So its removal meant longer-lasting consistent cushioning.
“In some ways, the Nike Air Max 360 was really our first Air Max shoe,” said Tom Hartge, Creative Director for Advanced Initiatives.
Once that was achieved, the designers also had to retool the 360 Air Max, first made for running shoes, for use on the basketball court. The basketball version would need more support than a running shoe to accomodate more weight and impact.
Engineers scrutinized the cage to evolve it from linear movement to the lateral movement demands of basketball. Pillar placement necessitated extra alterations as well in order to ensure support where it mattered.
Check out original design sketches and models below, and get the full story on the Air Max 360 Basketball from nikeinc.com.